I remember the wintry afternoon of January 2021 when I attended the first class of my last semester in my room. It soon dawned on me that I would be a pandemic graduate within six months. I stood clueless because half of my college life was washed away by the pandemic, contracting COVID-19, recovering from dengue, along with grieving a grandparent’s loss. ‘I know, it was a lot and people had it worse’ – that is what I told myself to get through the dreadful time.
Soon, I graduated on a random Sunday which the calendar called June 20, 2021. It felt like a premature baby’s umbilical cord had been cut while she still needed some time in the red-brick building of her college.
Unable to grasp what should come next, I started preparing for my master’s degree in English Literature in a frenzy – as if I was running out of time. Sometime then, I received a call from an overseas friend who suggested I take a gap year.
I laughed it off because, with my North Indian upbringing, it is a norm to go for an MA immediately after your graduation and I had internalised this thought. My friend, being exposed to a different cultural milieu, emphasised that going for a master’s is not the only option, that life can be experimented with by traveling to new places and learning about the real world before making a decision.
Upon introspection, I felt my degree was inadequate and that my dream of becoming a writer was starting to look like a distant dream. There were only five pieces of short fiction that I wrote during my three years of college, with some Instagram poetry on the side. I felt disappointed because I was doing everything except writing. I also realised that I always felt a certain dread while writing academic papers. My hands used to freeze as I thought about whether my writing was ‘good enough’ to be read by my professors. To borrow a line from A Beautiful Mind, “…it was terrifying, petrifying, and mortifying.” I felt like I didn’t have a good CV, despite having some achievements in theatre and academic research to my credit.
As I sat with these thoughts, I asked myself, ‘Should I go ahead with a master’s or find ways to become a freelance writer, and actually write?’
Intuition made me go with the latter. So, while my peers were filling out the application forms, I ended up writing technical content articles for a tech firm. The experience was exhausting as I was ghostwriting and providing well-researched content while getting paid peanuts. However, the remote work culture taught me some work ethic, and helped me better manage my finances.
There have been nights where I have experienced self-doubt because rejection letters from publishing houses started seeming more familiar than spam emails in my inbox. Everyone wanted an experienced person and I, as a pandemic graduate, had none!
Despite all this, I managed to get an interview call from a firm where they needed a copywriter, and somehow I aced the assignment. It is quite soon to tell, but things seem better at this point. I hope that I might be able to level up as I am also engaging in other forms of writing and understanding the nuances of it all.
During this switch, I took a trip to Pondicherry and had a breathtaking experience of scuba diving. Funnily, my peers were sitting for an entrance exam as I was going for my first dive in the Bay of Bengal. Scuba diving made me feel more sure of the possibilities that can come true with my gap year decision. I prefer to be a clueless graduate than a clueless postgraduate.
We often treat norms or rules as ‘truths’ just because they are practised so often. We end up forgetting that all roads lead to Rome and that to become something, you do not have to do what everyone else is doing.
Last evening, as I was taking a stroll in my neighbourhood park, I chuckled to myself as Frost’s poetry rang in my head. I was walking on this gravel path and it forked into two, and I chose the one less travelled by. Time will tell the difference it will make.
Bhumika Aggarwal recently graduated in English Literature from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University.
Featured image: Pixabay